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HISTORY of VOLCANISM

 

The central volcano Katla is hidden under the southeastern part of the ice cap Myrdalsjokull.  It has usually erupted at intervals of 40 to 80 years and melted such volume of ice, that the flood waves have covered most of the Myrdalssandur outwash plain, the Solheimasandur plains, and even the Markarfljot plains.  The peak volume can be compared with River Amazon.  Documented sources about earlier eruptions and floods seem to be relatively reliable from around 1179.  The Katla caldera is the southernmost part of a 75 km long fissure system, which extends almost all the way to the western edge of the Vatnajokull ice cap.  According to the latest results of scientific research in that area, the total length of this system erupted during the period 930-940, emitted about 19 km³ of tephra and created a lava field of about 800 km².  This eruption is considered the largest historical eruption of the country, and for that matter of the whole world.

The eruptions in 1245 and 1262 are said to have created most of the outwash plain Solheimasandur and the 1311 eruption caused the so-called Sturla Flood, which devastated the farming area called Lageyjarhverfi on the outwash plain Myrdalssandur.  The 1416 and 1490 eruptions caused the thickest ash layers in the Southwest, now the capital area.  In 1755 (Oct. 17th), the eastern part of the Myrdalssandur was once more flooded, when quite a few people were travelling across.  All escaped, some narrowly though, but some sheep were lost.  The ash layers were very thick and poisonous.  This caused great losses of livestock and consequently human lives.  The 1860 eruption caused floods to the west of the freestanding mountain Hjorleifshofdi.  The 1918 eruption lasted from October 12th to November 4th.  The flood created a spit of land east of Hjorleifshofdi, which became the southernmost point of the country until it was gradually transported away by the ocean currents.  Before the eruption, the depth of the sea, where it was created, was measured between 2000 and 3000 fathoms.
 

An intense seismic swarm is ongoing since yesterday morning 29 September 2016 at Katla volcano. An intense pulse started today at 12:02 (30 September) with several earthquakes around magnitude 3 or larger.


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